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Capitalism, my.Diary Entries, Sustainable Living, Toxicity

Coronary Capitalism


Wow, the layers of desillusion our generation is facing are just rising. we really live in a time when people must educate themselves in order to be able to take care of themselves. Free markets have replaced states and instead of respecting human rights they devalue and abuse human and other  life beyond belief. As kenneth Rogoff points out below, no one in power cares. So, the levels of toxicity in our lives won’t be reduced anytime soon either by governments intervention nor corporation policies. Only individuals can take action and change what we are currently experiencing.

Obesity affects life expectancy in numerous ways, ranging from cardiovascular disease to some types of cancer. Moreover, obesity – certainly in its morbid manifestations – can affect quality of life. The costs are borne not only by the individual, but also by society – directly, through the health-care system, and indirectly, through lost productivity, for example, and higher transport costs (more jet fuel, larger seats, etc.).

But the obesity epidemic hardly looks like a growth killer. Highly processed corn-based food products, with lots of chemical additives, are well known to be a major driver of weight gain, but, from a conventional growth-accounting perspective, they are great stuff. Big agriculture gets paid for growing the corn (often subsidized by the government), and the food processors get paid for adding tons of chemicals to create a habit-forming – and thus irresistible – product. Along the way, scientists get paid for finding just the right mix of salt, sugar, and chemicals to make the latest instant food maximally addictive; advertisers get paid for peddling it; and, in the end, the health-care industry makes a fortune treating the disease that inevitably results.

Coronary capitalism is fantastic for the stock market, which includes companies in all of these industries. Highly processed food is also good for jobs, including high-end employment in research, advertising, and health care.

So, who could complain? Certainly not politicians, who get re-elected when jobs are plentiful and stock prices are up – and get donations from all of the industries that participate in the production of processed food. Indeed, in the US, politicians who dared to talk about the health, environmental, or sustainability implications of processed food would in many cases find themselves starved of campaign funds.

True, market forces have spurred innovation, which has continually driven down the price of processed food, even as the price of plain old fruits and vegetables has gone up. That is a fair point, but it overlooks the huge market failure here.

Consumers are provided with precious little information through schools, libraries, or health campaigns; instead, they are swamped with disinformation through advertising. Conditions for children are particularly alarming. With few resources for high-quality public television in most countries, children are co-opted by channels paid for by advertisements, including by food industry.

Beyond disinformation, producers have few incentives to internalize the costs of the environmental damage that they cause. Likewise, consumers have little incentive to internalize the health-care costs of their food choices.”

From “Coronary Capitalism” , at: http://www.project-syndicate.org/commentary/rogoff89/English

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